In 1979, Jean Wimberly, the executive director and founder of Circle of Voices, recognized a problem with the lack of women of color present at the iconic Womyn’s Michigan Music Festival. In response, she and her “sisters” took matters into their own hands to address the problem, Wimberly explained to HuffPost Live on Monday.
Wimberly described to host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani that when she and her friends arrived at the festival, it was “nothing but white women” with a few women of color “sprinkled” throughout.
“I just sat with my sisters and we just talked about how overwhelmed we felt and that we needed to speak to the planners about so few women of color,” Wimberly said. “This was the year of women loving women, and so few women of color, so we decided that we were going to write something and we wanted to make a bold statement.”
She and her compatriots asked a group performing at the festival if they could go onstage to speak about how they felt. They were given 30 minutes.
“I was just blown. I was nervous. I was afraid, but I had to say it because it was such an awesome time,” Wimberly said. “It was like a little piece of heaven and women of color were missing out on this, and so I had to say something.”
In front of thousands of women, Wimberly and her friend praised the “awesome festival” but emphasized that the lack of women of color there “could only be described as racism.” She said everyone in the audience lifted up their flashlights, stood up and started chanting to show their support.
“It was just mind-blowing,” she said. “We got no sleep. They stayed up and chanted all night.”